Engineering contributes 26% of the UK’s GDP, more than the retail, wholesale, financial and insurance sectors put together, so as you might expect there’s plenty of career opportunities. What’s more, progression tends to be fast, salaries are high, and the chance to see the results of your work come to life is something many engineers find very fulfilling. If that all sounds like the foundations of a great career choice to you, let’s look at what skills and qualities you’ll need to succeed in engineering?
Born engineers will have a natural interest in the physical world and how things work. For the technical side of things, candidates will need a head for figures, so strong maths ability is essential. In addition, you’ll need to be a creative problem-solver. Few engineers work in isolation, so good communication skills are essential, as well as the ability to collaborate effectively as part of a team. It goes without saying that, these days in engineering, you need to be tech-savvy and able to update your knowledge and skills with the latest industry-related developments.
Should you choose to enter the profession, as an engineer you’ll have the choice of working in four large diverse sectors, including chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Within these, there are many niches and directions your engineering career path can take you, such as aerospace, agriculture, design, transport, food science, marine, telecoms and mining – to mention just a few.
The tools to craft a career
There are many routes into engineering including foundation courses, a related university degree, apprenticeships and other forms of work-based training. Some universities, such as Loughborough, Coventry, Leeds, Portsmouth and Sheffield Hallam are renowned the world over for their engineering courses.
Level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers, while higher apprenticeships (levels 4, 5, 6, 7) are geared towards those with A-levels. To be accepted onto any apprenticeship, you’ll need good grades in STEM-related GCSEs. Once you’ve started, you can expect a mix of practical learning and classes with either at least a day each week to attend college, or the opportunity to alternate on-the-job training and study in blocks.
As an engineer, you’ll work normal office hours as a minimum, but you’ll be expected to work overtime in order to keep a project on schedule. Many engineering companies now have flexitime practices, so you may get these hours back. In some sectors, particularly transport, you may be required to do shift work, including nights. Some travel may be involved, especially in the construction sector, where sites may be in locations throughout the UK, or even overseas.
Engineering salaries build quickly
A typical salary for an apprentice can be £12,000 to £15,000, but you can expect an annual pay rise if you perform well. An engineering graduate can expect to start anywhere between £18,000 and as much as £33,000. Once qualified, however, wages rise quickly, especially for those that train for their master’s degree and can range anywhere from £40,000 to £65,000 and beyond.
For a wide range of engineering jobs in every sector and level, start with a job search on Zoek.
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